Entrepreneur Shares Her Advice On Sales and Relationship-Building

By Steve Jagler
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As the president of Firehouse Communications in Milwaukee, Paula Hare has spent the past 30 years developing and promoting other companies’ brands. Now she’s building her own brand. On the side. With some hustle.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A generation ago, it was commonly called “moonlighting.”

Eager to put a little extra cash in their pockets or looking to have a little fun, workers with full-time jobs would take an extra shift, perhaps as a bartender, waitress or cab driver on the weekends. Others would create trinkets or works of art to be sold at craft fairs.

Today, it’s called a “side hustle.” Google it. It’s a thing.

As the president of Firehouse Communications in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, Paula Hare has spent the past 30 years developing and promoting other companies’ brands, including Sargento Foods, Whitsons Culinary Group and the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp.

Now she’s building her own brand. On the side. With some hustle.

Hare walked into Indigo Blu-MKE, the gift shop in Milwaukee’s Iron Horse Hotel, one afternoon last November. She was wearing a black T-shirt that featured cool white graphics and sported the phrase “212 Studio NYC.”

Barbara Berg, operator of the store, asked Hare where she had found such a unique and stylish shirt.

“It was an old T-shirt I had in my drawer. I ripped it up, put holes in it on purpose and enhanced one sleeve with Swarovski crystals,” Hare told Berg.

“I want to sell those shirts in my store. I need 10 of them by Friday,” Berg responded.

“I delivered 12. I’m an overachiever,” Hare recalled.

Thus was the birth of Gearhead Fashion, Hare’s latest side hustle. Hare alters and reinvents vintage clothing, handbags, jewelry, shoes and more with custom lettering, embroidering, sequins, patches and more.

The hand-painted fashion line includes items made of distressed denim and worn leather or camouflage jackets.

The garments are premium priced. One of the jackets has a $244 price tag.

They bear phrases such as “53202” (her company’s ZIP code), “Too Hard to Handle,” “Didn’t Get Caught” and “Nobody’s Gonna Slow Me Down.”

Each item has a certain flare. A Hare flare.

Gearhead Fashion’s tagline: “Designed by rockstars. For rockstars.”

“I bundled up everything that was in me. I bundled it up into a brand. I love rock ‘n’ roll,” Hare said.

“Paula’s apparel and accessories are designed and made in Milwaukee, which is what we’re all about,” Berg said.

“It’s edgy, it’s rock ‘n’ roll and one-of-a-kind apparel.”

Hare’s fashion line also is being sold in New York City, where Firehouse Communications has a satellite office.

In a way, Hare’s Firehouse Communications business and Gearhead Fashion side hustle form a closed loop — with Hare at the center.

“My side hustle customers have become Firehouse clients. And my Firehouse clients have become my side hustle customers,” Hare said. “It’s a new business model. It’s a new way of thinking about sales and relationship-building.”

According to the irrepressible Hare, having fun is a crucial element to embarking on a successful side hustle.

“Optimism with no fear of failure or embarrassment, combined with awesome people, is the secret sauce for a fun lifestyle — not just a conscious thing to remember to do at work,” Hare said. “Having fun is not only my top priority, but it’s also my lifestyle. It’s my way of thinking and embracing every single day. It’s a vibe. By embracing a life full of fun, it’s easy to carry over that lifestyle into the workplace.”

Nick Loper, founder of, which chronicles the adventures of successful side hustles across the nation, said Hare is spot-on about the importance of having fun on the side.

“If you can find a way to make your business fun, you’re definitely more likely to stick with it,” Loper said. “I think Freud’s two ingredients for a happy life were love and work, so a fun and challenging side project can definitely contribute to that.”

Paula Hare

Title: Owner and creative director
Company: Firehouse Communications and Gearhead Fashion, both based in Milwaukee with an office in New York City.
Expertise: Marketing, communications, branding, social media, public relations and fashion designs
Education: Bachelor’s degree, fine arts, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Family: Husband, John; daughters, Rebecca, an opera singer and publicist in New York, and Olivia, a finance major at the University of Alabama; and one rescue kitten, Carol.
Best advice ever received: “Over promise and over deliver.”
Favorite movie: “Whatever movie my trainer, Romal Criss, tells me is his favorite movie.”
Favorite musical act: “Rock concerts of all kinds and anything that the American Lyric Theater and MasterVoices in New York City produces.”
Favorite Wisconsin restaurant: Pizzeria 3301 at Villa Palermo, Milwaukee
After hours: “I am a longtime volunteer and cat socializer for the Wisconsin Humane Society, a serial entrepreneur and the Cream Puff mascot for the Wisconsin Baker’s Association and the Wisconsin State Fair.”

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